The Seahawks cut a former NFL starting quarterback they had recently traded a draft pick to get. They let go of the president of the NFL players union. They kept a bushel of wide receivers — but not one of their most versatile and fearless ones.
Seattle pulled a couple of mild surprises Saturday while setting its 53-man roster for the imminent regular season.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s release became known Friday night. And veteran tackle Eric Winston, the union president, became endangered once rookie second-round draft choice Justin Britt won the starting right-tackle job weeks ago.
But the release of Bryan Walters amid the seven other wide receivers they kept was the most unexpected move. Walters had fearlessly and effectively returned punts and kickoffs all month. His release means that for now — unless Seattle acquires another punt returner from another team before Thursday — All-Pro safety Earl Thomas apparently will be the first man back on punts for the NFL opener against Green Bay.
The Seahawks also cut defensive end Benson Mayowa after five-year veteran O’Brien Schofield out-played Seattle’s 2013 summer star at the weak-side, pass-rush specialist spot all month.
The Super Bowl champions have but three players older than 30: backup Tarvaris Jackson — who with Russell Wilson are the only two quarterbacks on the roster — plus punter Jon Ryan and defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
The surprise of the preseason, undrafted rookie Brock Coyle from Montana, made the team. His heady play and beyond-his-years leadership running the defense at middle linebacker for the first four weeks of training camp and two exhibition games while Bobby Wagner had a hamstring injury won him a job he wouldn’t have had if Wagner hadn’t gotten hurt. Ten-year veteran Heath Farwell’s going on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week cemented Coyle’s place on the team.
Pass-rushing outside linebacker Bruce Irvin is on the roster. He could have gone on the physically-unable-to-perform list to begin the regular season, because he was on the preseason PUP and has yet to practice. By keeping him as one of the 53, the Seahawks obviously believe he is about to return sooner than later from offseason hip surgery.
Coach Pete Carroll has said he was “hopeful” Irvin would be back on the practice field this week.
It’s obvious now how much the Seahawks value rookie wide receiver Kevin Norwood. He hasn’t practiced in a month yet made the active roster. The team sent the fourth-round draft choice to get a bone-spur issue in his foot he’d had since his college days at Alabama operated on this month so they’d have him in September and beyond — not so they’d cut him Saturday.
Linebacker Korey Toomer, the team’s fifth-round draft choice in 2012, couldn’t stay on the practice field in the preseason because of injuries. That cost him a job, as rookie fourth-round Kevin Pierre-Louis won a backup job over him.
Also released: cornerback Phillip Adams, tight end RaShaun Allen, cornerback Akeem Auguste, running back Demitrius Bronson from Kent, wide receiver Arceto Clark, quarterback B.J. Daniels, guard Caylin Hauptmann, tackle Nate Isles, recently acquired center Patrick Lewis, wide receiver Chris Matthews, safety Terrance Parks, tight end Morrell Presley, defensive tackle Andru Pulu, fullback and rookie seventh-round pick Kiero Small, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, safety Steven Terrell, plus 2013 sixth-round pick and running back Spencer Ware.
The Seahawks also placed defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith on their season-ending injured-reserve list.
Walters returned every punt and kickoff — and fumbled once — in the exhibition season finale at Oakland Thursday and ran back punts like a daredevil all month. He filled three roles with one player, the kind of value that is at a premium on such a highly competitive roster. But he lost out to third-year former Ohio University quarterback Phil Bates, who caught a 33-yard touchdown pass Thursday from the now-gone Pryor.
Keeping seven wide receivers (Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Ricardo Lockette, Bates and Norwood) but only three running backs (Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin) and one fullback (Derrick Coleman) is indicative of how much more varied outside the Seahawks expect their offense will be this season.
The Seahawks acquired cornerback Marcus Burley Saturday from the Indianapolis Colts for a sixth-round draft choice in 2015. Burley was an undrafted free agent in 2013 out of Delaware. He spent last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, for whom he was active for one game. The 24-year old is 5 feet 10 and 189 pounds, a smaller option than Seattle’s bigger defensive backs.
As became obvious with how well he played all month, O’Brien Schofield won the job at weak-side, pass-rush defensive end. That cost Mayowa, Seattle’s 2013 summer star, a roster spot.
Garry Gilliam, 6 feet 5 and 306 pounds, made the team as a backup offensive tackle as an undrafted rookie out of Penn State.
He was more than a tad appreciative.
Gilliam tweeted Saturday via his @Garry_Gilliam account: “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference. Officially a Seattle Seahawk!! God is so good! #GoHawks“
The term “final” for these regular-season rosters is a misnomer. The Seahawks can claim any player released in the league on Saturday off waivers until Sunday at 1 p.m. and add them to this roster, after releasing another player.
After 1 p.m. Sunday, unclaimed players who are eligible (generally those with fewer than three seasons of NFL service time) could become members of Seattle’s10-man practice squad.